Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Exploring Hampi

The medieval city of Vijayanagara, also known by its modern name, Hampi, was the sprawling capital of an empire that ruled most of southern India from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. The central part of the site alone spreads across some 6,000 acres, and includes temples, palaces, hilltop shrines, and a staggering variety of art. To find out more about the site, read "Letter from India: Living Heritage at Risk."   —Text and Images by Samir S. Patel  

  • The Sacred Center of Hampi, including Virupaksha Temple (at center) and Hampi Bazaar (stretching to the right), as seen from the top of Matanga Hill
  • The Virupaksha Temple complex in Hampi’s Sacred Center as seen from inside the temple grounds
  • One of the central shrines of the Virupaksha Temple complex, which is dedicated to the god Shiva and predates the city of Vijayanagara by several hundred years
  • Colonnade structures at the far end of Hampi Bazaar mark the beginning of the trail to the top of Matanga Hill, set against the granite boulders that make up the surrounding landscape.
  • The Tiruvengalanatha Temple complex in Hampi’s Sacred Center, seen from the top of Matanga Hill
  • Stepped tank in the Royal Center of Hampi, discovered in the 1950s and part of what has come to be called the “noblemen’s quarter”
  • Carving of Hanuman, a revered character from the Ramayana. The Hampi region has long been associated with the forest kingdom of the monkeys in the Hindu epic.
  • A shrine, in the form of a wheeled chariot, to Garuda, a mythical bird-like creature, in Hampi’s Vitthala Temple complex
  • A freestanding mandapa, or pillared public hall, in Hampi’s Vitthala Temple complex
  • Elephant stables in what is known as the zenana enclosure, part of Hampi’s Royal Center
  • One of the best-preserved structures at Hampi is the Lotus Mahal, probably used as a council chamber, in Hampi’s Royal Center.